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Yuri on the phone

Our award-winning film ‘Yuri on the Phone’ directed by Rene Nuijens is now online! Watch it above! With killer animations by stellar Celia Rosa and design studio Addikt! Edited by pulsar Will Judge!

In 1961, Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space. Every man wanted to be him. Every woman wanted to be his wife. Now 55 years later, one lady’s passion for Yuri is as strong as ever…

Featuring Serbian film diva Rada Đuričin, ‘Yuri on the Phone’ shows us that space has enough place for all our hearts. It’s a story about love without borders. How obsession can be triggered by a single smile. How enduring passion can fill all voids.

Experience beauty, poetry, borscht and lift-off in this production from Road to Gagarin – makers of the multiple award-winning ‘Yuri Gagarin Goose Chase’ and the ‘First Yugoslavian Cosmonaut’…

Together, let’s reach for the stars!

(If you don’t have the attention span for this 6-minute movie, watch the trailer HERE for which I did my very best ‘voice of God’ voice-over impersonation.)

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- Nominated at the BARCELONA PLANET FILM FESTIVAL, Feb 2016, Barcelona (ESP).
- WINNING AWARD at FILM FESTIVAL CINEVANA ISTANBUL 2016, Istanbul (TRK).
- Official selection for the TEXAS ULTIMATE SHORTS, January 2016 (USA).
- Official selection for the HOLLYWOOD SKY FILM FESTIVAL, 2016 (USA).
- Official selection for the BROKEN KNUCKLE FILM FEST 2015 (USA).
- WINNER MIAMI INDEPENDENT SHORT FILM FESTIVAL August & September 2015 (USA).
- Official selection for BLOW UP, CHICAGO’S INTERNATIONAL ARTHOUSE FILMFEST (USA).
- Official selection for the KINOLIT FILMFESTIVAL, 2015, St. Petersburg (RUS).
- Official selection for LINEA D’OMBRO, FESTIVAL CULTURA GIOVANI, Salerno (IT).
- Official selection for the 2015 DC SHORT, Washington (USA).
- Official selection for the 2015 LOS ANGELES CINEFEST, LA (USA).
- Film looping at: FOTOGRAFIA EUROPEA 2015 at MUSEUM REGGIO EMILIA (IT).
- Official selection for the 2015 FMK INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL, Pordenone (IT)
- Official selection for the 2015 ROMA CINEMA DOC, Rome (IT).
- Official selection for the 2015 REGINA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL, Regina (CAN)

Posted: March 30, 2016 at 12:29 pm.

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Hospitality, Moscow-style

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I’ve had recurring dreams about showing my parents around Moscow. I would be taking them to major sights or exposing them via friends to that majorly psychotic brand of Slavic hospitality. But alas, such a trip never happened. (I did take them to former-Yugoslavia once. It was a mixed success. While my parents did get a taste of Slavic hospitality, they also flashed-back to their WWII childhoods – the taste of war was just still too fresh. But that’s another story.)

Last summer my Moscow dreams came partially true. My parents and I visited Moscow, Ontario, Canada (pop: 65). For a second as we drove across the town line, it even seemed like the real thing. Unfortunately, the rising spires of a Russian Orthodox church turned out to be a cluster of farm silos.

We stopped at the Variety Store and Gas Bar by the crossroads – aka ‘Downtown Moscow’. I hoped to buy local souvenirs to use as payback for hospitality the next time I was in Moscow proper. The proprietor Gord, a large older man who did not seem prone to movement, laughed when I asked if he sold Moscow-branded baseball caps or t-shirts. “I got chips and root beer. That’s pretty much it.” Gord laughed again when I asked if the town was originally founded by homesick Russians.

moscowontariocanadaApparently, Moscow was originally called Springfield until government agents dropped by in the late 19th century to tell the hamlet to change its name because there were already too many goddam Springfields. So in the name of not confusing the postal services any further, Springfield was renamed Moscow since it happened to be the anniversary of Napoleon’s wintery retreat from Moscow proper. “And hell, it gets cold here too!” Gord laughed.

We bought root beers as a small compensation for Gord’s story before making our own retreat. Just as we were about to pull out, Gord ran outside. Huffing, puffing and verging on a heart attack, he was holding a piece of paper. It was a photocopied certificate embossed with ‘Mos’ and a cartoon cow [pictured above]. He said he just found this last copy in his desk drawer and we could have it. Thanks Gord! Consider it laminated!

As we drove off we all agreed: Moscow is one hospitable town.
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Posted: October 16, 2013 at 2:33 pm.

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Heading to Berlin…

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Posted: April 26, 2012 at 11:26 am.

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THE FIRST YUGOSLAVIAN COSMONAUT


Road to Gagarin presents the short film ‘The First Yugoslavian Cosmonaut’ on the 51st anniversary of human space flight.

On 12 April 1961, the Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin (1934-68) yelled ‘Off we go!’ as he was blasted off from a dusty steppe in Kazakhstan to become the first human in space.

This historical event made a Belgrade boy start dreaming of becoming Yugoslavian Cosmonaut #1…

Road to Gagarin is a project by photographer/film-maker Rene Nuijens and I. By documenting the major settings of the bizarre and dramatic life of Yuri, we are out to capture the essence of the man who is dead, and his myth which is very much alive – and still inspiring much love, art and conspiracy theories. Yuri has not only been our rocket into Russia, but also Cuba.

Now it’s time to visit Yuri Gagarin Boulevard in Novi Belgrade, Serbia. Let’s all lay flowers.

Posted: April 11, 2012 at 9:56 pm.

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The fine art of Yuri Gagarin

nuijensThe booklet ‘Yuri Gagarin, 50 years of Human Space Flight’, part of our on-going Road to Gagarin project, won the first prize in the BLURB Photography Now Competition 2011, in the category Fine Art. Way to go René Nuijens – you saw, you shot, you produced, you conquered! Thanks designer Ewoudt Boonstra! But of course the biggest thanks goes to Yuri himself. Earlier this year he got us to Cuba and now he’s sending us to NYC. Yuri, you’re simply the greatest.

Posted: September 7, 2011 at 1:27 pm.

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Yuri Gagarin, human (50 years human space flight)

Our Road to Gagarin project was originally inspired by what we came to call ‘cosmonautic kitsch’ and the JFK-level of conspiracy theories around Gagarin, the myth. But recently we got to meet people who knew Yuri, the human. In tribute to the 50th anniversary of Yuri’s flight, I have put together some excerpts from these meetings with remarkable people. Cosmos Libre!
 

GagarinTown, House mum GagarinAs it turned out, the road to Gagarin was one of the better highways we ever drove down in Russia. In 2002, it was very new. Our driver Alexei, meanwhile, was very old school. He was a boy in Moscow when Yuri’s First Flight was announced. Like all his friends, Alexei skipped classes to be part of the masses that flowed to Red Square to celebrate. ‘But we were not punished because it was a great, great day. Our country had nothing, yet we were the first to enter the cosmos. From then on, every boy wanted to be a cosmonaut and every girl his wife.’ But times changed. Alexei doubts that his 15-year-old daughter has even heard of Gagarin. ‘She just wants dance and debt.’

Alexei’s views of the universe have only seemed to have darkened in the decades since the bright and glorious days of the First Flight. ‘By the time Gagarin died, everyone was tired of him. Within a year he was fat from vodka but still he became a general. The later cosmonauts were actually much cleverer since they were real scientists. Yuri was just an animal for an experiment.’ Alexei also claimed that Yuri wasn’t even first: that it was some Vladimir Ilyushin, son of a famous aircraft designer, who was the first to enter space. And in fact, most people now believe that Yuri himself was responsible for the still-mysterious training flight crash that killed him in 1968.

Suddenly our ambitions to make the ultimate coffee table book about Gagarin seemed a bit under-considered. Continue Reading…

Posted: April 12, 2011 at 12:19 pm.

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Yuri Gagarin in Cuba (50 Years of human space flight)

The first human in space, Yuri Gagarin (1934-68), was our rocket into Russia. But it was usually a wintery Russia. So it was a refreshing change when last month he had us blast us off to a warmer place: Cuba. It was also a bit of a different planet. So thank you, Yuri. Thank you.

Gagarin will always be Cosmonaut Number One. But he also came to hold another title: president of the Soviet-Cuban Friendship Society.  As such, the tiny cosmonaut who had conquered the vastness of outer space also became a symbol for a tiny nation who had seemingly conquered the vastness of American business interests. It was interesting times…

Barely a week after Gagarin’s first flight on 12 April 1961, the US-backed invasion of Playa Giron (AKA Bay of Pigs) tried to overthrow Fidel Castro’s two-year-old revolutionary government. But the attack only worked to strengthen Castro’s position and ally Cuba more closely with the Soviet Union. The resulting increased tensions with the US would build up towards the Cuban Missile Crisis (AKA October Crisis) 18 months later.

So what exactly was the role of the first off-world traveller in the events around what many consider the closest the world ever got to blowing itself up?

In Havana, we not only got to ask the first black dude in space (who incidentally credited his dentist wife for his Yuri-competing grin), but also an old chess-playing buddy of Che…  Thanks Yuri! We also went off-road in search of a school and a goose farm named after Gagarin. It was ‘ganso journalism’ at its best. Especially since due to unforeseen circumstances (stereotypically involving an unlicensed 1950s Chevy and a young lady of the Revolutionary Police), we went without an interpreter. But luckily the international language of Yuri got us far (as you can see in the above clip).

However the fact that the Spanish word for goose, ganso, is also Cuban slang for gay, did lead to a few moments of deep confusion. Thanks again Yuri!

Posted: April 12, 2011 at 10:05 am.

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Gagarin in Amsterdam

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Of the hundreds worldwide, three Gagarin-related events are taking place in Amsterdam tomorrow on 12 April 2011, the 50th anniversary of Yuri’s flight around the planet.

Between 4 and 10pm: Cosmic Mania Anno 2011 is the official Yuri’s Night party and features an exhibition of press photographs from the collection of cosmonautics obsessive Jaap Terweij.

Between 5 and 7pm: Opening of small exhibition of Gagarin-related books at University of Amsterdam’s PC Hoofthuis library on Spuistraat. I’m being interviewed by librarian/rocker Marko Petrovic who has lived intimately with Yuri’s legend: he grew up on Yuri Gagarin Boulevard in Novi Belgrade, Serbia. Free vodka. While it lasts.

From 8.30pm until late: International Day of Cosmonautics at the Smart Project Space. Ambitious-sounding programme of space art, microgravity performances, video and swinging Soviet space tunes. Entrance 9 euros.

Posted: April 11, 2011 at 10:07 am.

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A tribute to 50 years human space flight (1)

Open publication – Free publishingMore cccp

Next week on April 12th it will be the 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin (1934-68) becoming the first human in space. As part of our Road to Gagarin project, the photographer/director Rene Nuijens and I have published a modest but mighty visual tribute. Leaf through the Issuu version above and check out those cosmonautic monuments! Order a paper version today! In the upcoming week I will also be paying tribute by posting excerpts from the upcoming book. Thanks to Yuri, we saw amazing things and met inspiring people. Cosmos Libre!

Posted: April 6, 2011 at 11:51 am.

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ROAD TO GAGARIN ON FACEBOOK

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Please join our ROAD TO GAGARIN Facebook group.

On 12 April 1961, Soviet Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin (1934-68) yelled ‘Let’s Go!’ as he was launched for a 108-minute circuit around the earth to become the first human in space. For the last decade, photographer René Nuijens and I have been re-visiting Russia to document the major settings of Gagarin’s bizarre and dramatic life, and talking to people who were close to him. In the process, we are capturing the essence of both the man who is dead and his myth that is still very much alive. He remains the most popular 20th-century figure in Russia, where he has the legend status of a JFK or a Bruce Lee – inspiring love, art and conspiracy theories. We believe, like many others, Yuri should become more of a global icon again.

To be published in 2011, the book Road to Gagarin – In Search of the First Man in Space combines photography, travel writing, archival material and a tasty selection of cosmonautic kitsch. Yuri was our rocket into Russia. We recommend the ride to anyone.

 

Posted: February 22, 2011 at 3:00 pm.

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